Daniel Cowden

Daniel Cowden

San Francisco, CA, US


Activating Urban Interiors

This project proposes a solution to a very congested streetscape at Milan’s Piazza Firenze. Piazza Firenze currently serves as a public and private transportation artery. Situated at the edge of Milan’s Radially organized city, (what we deemed as a second era of Milan, the first being its organic development phase and the third orthogonal planning and gridification), it connects the historic city center (southeast) to the suburban sprawl (northwest). In addition, the CityLife development, 1 km south and featuring projects by Zaha, Libeskind, and Arata Isozaki, has increased the demand for transportation through the piazza by creating jobs and housing.

Transportation is not the only source of activity at Piazza Firenze although it does dominate the plaza creating an unhealthy, busy atmosphere for the many residents in the vicinity. Although predominantly residential, the plaza is zoned as mixed use and has some office buildings as well as retail and businesses occupying street level storefronts. The result is a competition for space in the plaza between transportation infrastructure and leisure / retail which is currently being won by transportation.

If the project was to perform surgery on some part of the existing piazza, creating more public space and room for leisure / retail, the insertion would have to be more efficient than the existing building typology. The strategy was to find building forms and programs that would be most effective at activating the streetscape, in the context of Piazza Firenze, which could then be used to repurpose existing space. To determine the location of the insertion, I looked at how competition between transportation and leisure infrastructures could be reduced. Although the Milanese depth of the blocks around Piazza Firenze were optimized to capture adequate natural light for the interiors, some instances were found where there was excess space on the interior of some blocks. Interiorizing leisure and retail programs not only takes advantage of “unused” space in the blocks, but also provides shelter from unhealthy noise, light and air pollution produced by the bustling piazza. The atmosphere of the project was designed to reduce the perception of the noise, light and air pollution created by the busy piazza. Interior courtyards found at and around Corso Como served as a precedent to study how to facilitate the phenomenon of discovery when approaching, entering and moving through the project. Discovery during the journey through this urban interior as well as the physical barriers of housing that surround it work together to position the project at the proper proximity to Piazza Firenze physically and psychologically.

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Status: School Project
Location: Milan, IT
Additional Credits: Instructors: Marie Monseignat, Naiara Vegara